Love Thy Customer: Four Drivers of Service Excellence

By Jean Marie Johnson

While Mick Jagger spoke for many a disgruntled customer when he sang “I can't get no satisfaction,” it would appear that Bob Dylan's lyrics are closer to current reality. In other words, “the times they are a'changin” indeed when it comes to the customer experience.

According to the Second Quarter 2009 American Customer Satisfaction Index, a highly-reputed survey conducted by The University of Michigan, the news from the first quarter of this year is good. “Customer sat” is at an all-time high registering a 0.4% increase to 76.0 on ACSI's 100-point scale, a second straight quarterly improvement. Bruce Temkin of Forrester Research supported this finding, observing that companies are continuing to spend in areas that affect the customer experience.


If you are thinking “well that's not the case in my neck of the woods,” we were, too. So we did some probing and uncovered a bit more information about who is improving and how.  As it turns out, several of the companies with enhanced customer sat scores are attending to one or more of the key drivers of service excellence: training, systems, processes and customer feedback. Here's a sampling:

  • Training
  • Comcast Corporation was able to cut repeat service calls by a significant 30% in 2008.  They enhanced service rep training, and introduced software that alerts reps to network glitches before they actually impact the consumer.   How's that for proactive communication that puts the customer experience first! Comcast also monitors feedback from dissatisfied customers on blogs and on Twitter, responding to specific feedback one-on-one.
  • Systems
  • Southwest Airlines made a system change that allows customers waiting in queue for a call center operator to receive a call back from the operator, without losing their place in the queue. We like the respect for the customer and the convenience of this move.
  • Processes
  • Sprint Nextel launched a major service improvement initiative in late 2007, including naming a Chief Service Officer. Amongst the many changes, call center operators are now rewarded for solving a customer's problem on the first call; no longer are they rewarded for “more calls in less time.”  Thank you, thank you, thank you!
  • Customer Feedback
  • Cheesecake Factory introduced an online customer survey focusing on service in its 146 locations. Systemic problems are being addressed at headquarters, while individual restaurants tackle specific sources of dissatisfaction. Second quarter earnings exceeded expectations and more changes are in the works. The large scale/small scale approach appears to be key to success here.
Organizations such as these are working hard to demonstrate that they are listening to their customer base and responding in a way that enhances relationship and addresses the reality of the customer's experience. As consumers and customer experience professionals, we are pleased.
 
About the ACSI
The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The overall ACSI score for a given quarter factors in scores from about 200 companies in 44 industries and from government agencies over the previous four quarters. The index is produced by the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business in partnership with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and CFI Group.

Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.
 
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